fiction and other writing

Posts tagged ‘short story’

Accident

Ben mopped up the tomato and bean sauce with his fried bread. The salty taste of the bacon lingered in his mouth until he swigged his mug of sweet tea. The cafe was packed and noisy but he liked the atmosphere. There was no-one nagging him about his health and the dangers of cholesterol. He wiped his plate clean; nodded to Jess, the waitress and made his way out to his van. Taking the southern road down to the sea, he put his foot down as he mustn’t be late for work again. They were doing up a house. A big job. The place was riddled with damp. For just a moment he realized he felt ill and then a pain so terrible shot threw his chest. He clutched at his arm and then blackness blotted out the day.

Lynda sat at the kitchen table and carefully applied her make-up. The children were dressed and their breakfast was ready for them. It was an important day today. She had an interview. If she got the job it would make a huge difference to their lives. She was wearing her smartest dress and had studied the company details and aims. She knew she was as well prepared as she could be. She needed the job to help her get out of the house. Since Pete had walked out to set up house with young Kate, Lynda had felt worthless, unattractive and had wanted to hide away. Only her children had kept her sane.

“You look nice mummy,” said Zac.

“Thank you, darling. Come and eat your breakfast. We need to get off to school.”

They left the house at eight thirty and Lynda dropped Zac and his sister at the gates and watched them walk in. She then made her way north, away from the sea, to the out of town shopping centre. As she drove upwards along the narrow winding road, she turned a sharp corner and saw a van embedded in a tree.

‘I can’t stop,’ she thought, ‘or I’ll miss my interview.’ Then she noticed there was someone in the vehicle and the engine was still running. She was out of the car and wrenching open the door of the van before she realized what she was doing. ‘Now would be a good time to have a mobile phone,’ she thought. On the seat next to the fat man she saw his phone and picked it up. Quickly she reported the accident. He was alive and bleeding. It was pouring from his arm. She ripped her petticoat and tied his arm into a raised position. Then with another band she tried to stem the flow of blood by tying a tight knot round his arm. The man was still unconscious. Relief flooded over her as she heard the sirens approaching.

While the ambulance crew took over, she picked up the man’s phone again and called the shop where her interview was being held.

“Sorry love if you can’t get here on time you’re not for us,” the woman who answered the phone said and was about to hang up.

“Wait,” Lynda shouted. “What did you want me to do? Leave a man dying by the road? I stopped to help an injured man. The least you can do is see me.”

“Well, I’ll add you to the end of the list, but you’d better get here sharpish. I’ve heard some excuses in my time.”

Lynda handed the phone to the policewoman and gave her details. She explained her urgent need to get to the interview and was allowed on her way. When she arrived at the shop she went straight to the Ladies and washed her face and arms. She sponged down her clothes and quickly changed her tights, which were torn. She certainly didn’t look the smart, calm lady from this morning, but she had to try her best.

As she was ushered into the room she took deep breaths to calm herself. The two ladies who interviewed listened as she explained the accident and agreed with her that she couldn’t have driven on. They offered her the job. It was not just the extra money, which would help stretch Pete’s miniscule maintenance payments, it was the staff discount that would help too. She would be able to get cut priced food, clothing and household goods from her new employment.

‘What a day,’ she reflected as she sat and ate celebratory cake with her children, after school. When they had gone to bed she telephoned the local police station and asked if there was any news on the driver.

“He made it to hospital alive, so there’s every chance he’ll pull through,” said the desk officer. “He was lucky you came along.”

It was two months later when there was a knock on the door of her house. There was a couple standing there with a large bunch of flowers. Lynda recognised the man from the van.

“I’m Mavis and this is Ben. You saved my husband’s life a few months ago and we wanted to say thank you.”

Lynda invited them in and they sat down and had tea.

“You gave me the most precious gift,” said Mavis. “I love my husband very much. If he had died I don’t know how I would’ve carried on. If there is anything we can give to you to help you or your family you must let us know.”

Lynda noticed that Ben looked at his wife in surprise when she’d said she loved him.

“The flowers are lovely and I don’t want anything else from you. You’ve already given me a wonderful gift. Before the day of the accident, since my husband left me, I felt useless and worthless. But I helped to save a life and realized that there is a point to my being. I am a worthwhile person. You gave me that. Thank you.”

As they left Ben whispered, “ and you’ve given me my marriage back. She hasn’t said she cared for years.”

Lynda smiled. “And you? When was the last time you said it?”

The Apple Tree

The door creaked open slowly. Agnes felt the cold creep into every part of her body. The heating was on but it made no difference. She pulled the woollen blanket up round her chin. The air shimmered in front of her.

‘Is there anyone there?’ she called out in a frail voice.

There was silence.

‘Who came in?’ she asked.

The silence extended its way into the room like the creeping tentacles of a vine. She looked at the shape appearing in front of her. The form was misty but vaguely familiar. She wished she didn’t live by herself in this old draughty house, but she refused to be frightened. She’d always been strong.

‘Who are you and what do you want?’

‘I used to live here. My name is Thomas.’

‘That’s a good name. Well Thomas, this is my house now and I’d like to know why you’re here.’

‘It’s my home,’ the small child replied. ‘I’ve never left here.’

‘I don’t understand. What do you mean?’

‘I lie beneath the apple tree in the garden. No-one ever blessed me or said a prayer. I can’t leave because of how I died. I’m tied to this house.’

‘Why have I never seen you before then?’

‘That’s what you always say,’ said Thomas.

The image faded before Agnes’s eyes and the room grew warmer.

‘Hello, it’s only me,’ called Martha from the front door. ‘How are we today? Oh, it’s nice and warm in here.’

‘Hello, who are you?’ asked Agnes.

‘It’s me Martha. I’ve just bought you a nice hot meal. I come every day. Do you remember?’

‘Hello Martha. What’s for dinner today?’

‘Macaroni cheese, followed by apple pie. Let me just get you some cutlery, and then I’ll have to go. Lots of people waiting for their dinner.’

When Martha closed the door, Agnes settled down and ate her meal. She had just finished when the door creaked slowly and Agnes felt the cold again. A little boy appeared before her out of a mist. She held the blanket close to her.

‘Who are you?’ she asked.

‘My name is Thomas. When I was alive I lived here. Now I lie under the apple tree in the garden and I can’t leave because of how I was killed.’

‘Well Thomas, this is my house now. I think you are making me very cold.’

‘I’m cold. I’ve been cold for seventy years.’

‘What can I do to help you to leave?’

‘You can say a prayer about how sorry you are that I died such a violent death.’

‘Well, of course I am sorry. No-one should die a violent death. Let me go and get my coat and I’ll come into the garden with you.’

Agnes went out of the room to get her coat, but when she got to the hall she couldn’t remember what she’d gone to collect. She went back to sit by the fire and pulled the blanket round her. The soft texture was comforting but there was a chill in the air. A young boy appeared before her.

‘Who are you?’ she asked.

‘My name is Thomas. You were going to get your coat and come into the garden and say a prayer for me about how sorry you were that I died young.’

‘Was I? Well Thomas why would I do that?’

‘So I don’t make you cold anymore.’

‘That’s a good reason.’ Agnes picked up her pen and notebook.
She wrote, ‘Get coat. Go into the garden. Say prayer for Thomas so he doesn’t make me cold anymore.’ Then she stood up holding her notebook. When she reached the hall she put on her coat and went back to her chair and put down the notebook. She headed for the garden, following Thomas but when she opened the back door she couldn’t think why she was going into the garden and turned round and went back to her chair. Agnes snuggled under the warm woollen blanket. She was very cold. She picked up her notebook and read: Get coat. Go into the garden. Say prayer for Thomas so he doesn’t make me cold anymore. Then she looked up and saw a young boy.

‘You must be Thomas. Can I say the prayer here?’

Thomas looked at her sadly. ‘If you like.’

Agnes was not a religious person, but there could be no harm in saying a prayer.

‘Dear world, I am sorry that this poor boy, Thomas was killed violently and is now buried under my apple tree. Please let him go where he should be, so my house won’t be cold anymore.’

Thomas went out and lay under the apple tree again.

The door creaked slowly. Agnes felt the cold creep into every part of her body. The heating was on but it made no difference. Her thick fluffy blanket felt like the inside of a freezer. Nothing she did made her warm.

When Martha arrived the next day it was to find Agnes stiff and as cold as an icicle. While Martha waited for the ambulance she felt a severe chill enter her bones and then a small boy appeared before her.

‘My mother killed me when I was eight, but she could never be sorry about it because she lost her mind and memory.’

‘Who was your mother, Thomas?’

The little boy pointed at Agnes. Martha said nothing, but opened her arms to hold the child. He went straight to her.

‘I am so sorry Thomas,’ she said. She felt a strong hug and then he was gone. Sun started streaming in through the windows. Rays of light danced on the mantelpiece and there they struck an old photograph she had never noticed before of a young boy. He was smiling.

Colour Change

The bedroom walls were covered with posters of fantasy drawings. Clothes were hung from doors and draped over chairs. Make-up spilled from jars and pots and colourful jewellery decorated every surface.

“Shall we go to…” started Yasmin.

“the cinema? said Yetta.

“I do wish you wouldn’t…”

“do that. Sorry. I’ll try not to,” said Yetta.

Yasmin pulled on her purple jumper and turned round to see her twin was wearing purple too.

“Oh, this is really a joke. I’ll change,” said Yasmin raising her arms to pull the jumper off.

“But why bother? You know mother likes us to dress the same.”

“Well it might’ve been ok when we were little, but we’re older now and we should be different. We should be individual,” said Yasmin slipping on a black shirt.

“I don’t know what all the fuss is about but hey, who cares?”

Picking up their bags they headed off to the cinema. On the way they passed the ‘Cutting Edge’ hairdressers. Yasmin, suddenly grabbed Yetta’s arm and guided her into the shop. Yasmin explained to the receptionist that they would like some guidance from a hairdresser before they booked an appointment and they were asked to wait.

The hairdresser came and looked at them both and smiled. They were used to people smiling at their beautiful long blond hair and bright blue eyes. Yasmin took the lead.

“I want to look completely different from my twin, but we’re still at school so I need a hairstyle that’s not too outrageous.”

Yetta’s face paled. “But we’ve always looked the same. It’ll be horrible to be a single rather than a pair.”

“Sorry Yetta. You’ll always be my best friend, but I want to be me.”

“Well let me see how can I help you?” said the hairdresser. “If you just wanted to be different you could have a bob. However if you want something more dramatic, I could give you a very short wispy style. We could even add some low lights and then you could darken your make-up. Then again red hair always looks good.”

“I like the sound of wispy and low lights,” said Yasmin. “Can you do it now?”

“Yes, we can fit you in. We’re very quiet today. I’m Tracy by the way.”

“Well I don’t like your hair ideas and I’m not wasting my afternoon. I’m off to the cinema. You coming?” said Yetta.

“No,” said Yasmin. “I’ll see you later.”

Yetta marched out of the shop and towards the cinema. She sat through the film on her own, taking in none of it. Usually she sat with her twin. They rarely were apart and all the time she thought about how her sister would look with short, darker hair. She knew that when Yasmin went home their mother would explode with anger. There would be such a terrible row. Mother liked them looking like clones. She always said a pair was better than one, but really she liked all the looks that came their way. Mother used them like ornaments. She would shout and scream and rant and rage at Yasmin for spoiling the image. Yetta began to be sorry that she’d walked out of Cutting Edge.

Yasmin felt very brave as her locks tumbled to the floor. Tracy was funny and told her lots of amusing anecdotes as her hair was low – lighted. She liked her new look, but wished Yetta had been sitting there with her. Usually they were together and it felt odd being without her, although wasn’t that partly what she wanted, to be an individual? It was later as she thought about going home that her confidence left her. Their mother was about to hit the roof and she was going to be shredded. In truth the pair of them never stood up to her. They let her bully them into being her “pretty girls”. It was wrong but she was such a dominant woman. Instead of going home she went to sit on the swings in the park, but in the end she knew she must go home.

Yasmin ran a hand through her short hair. This is what being an individual was about; standing up for things you believe. She opened the door and her mother was at her before she had time to think.

“What the hell have you done to your beautiful hair? Why you wicked, wicked girl.” The tirade went on, but although she tried to speak there was no space for her words. Then suddenly Yetta was standing beside her. Her hair was now shoulder length and had a gentle red tint to it. Their mother stopped and stared at Yetta.

“That Tracy’s very good, isn’t she? I went after the cinema. I love your hair like that Yasmin. Do you like mine?”

“How dare you..?” their mother started.

“No mother, how dare you, dictate how we should wear our hair. We’re seventeen and we’re going to be individuals…” said Yasmin.

“…and although we’ve lost our wow factor, we’re going to start learning what it is like to make our own decisions.” said Yetta.

“Goodnight mother,” said both girls together.

Ways Green – a murder mystery. (Work-in-progress)

Winifred heard a noise in the post office. She was just having a quiet cup of tea in the tearoom at the back of the shop.

‘That’s funny,’ she thought, ‘everyone’s on the walk. It must be someone travelling through the village.’ She eased herself slowly out of the chair and limped awkwardly to the front part of her premises. There was no one there. ‘How very strange!’

And that was Winifred Fletcher’s very last thought.
***
Annabelle tottered back into the post office, wearing four inch heels. They had proved to be totally unsuitable for the ramble, but how was a girl to look sexy in walking boots? Somehow she needed to get Ivor to propose. She sighed. Here she was again, last out of the tearooms and first back. That stupid woman Fletcher had put ham next to uncooked chicken in the fridge. It had taken her ages to explain the dangers of bacteria contamination to the old bat and she’d only left when Ivor had called out he was leaving.

‘I detest this pesky rambling,’ she thought as her feet ached. ‘What’s the point of it? Bloody waste of time.’ She was so wound up that she didn’t see the body lying on the floor at first. She was heading straight for the tiny tearoom, where Ivor had promised to meet up with her when he’d finished the tiresome walk. As she walked towards the tearoom she saw a foot sticking out from behind the counter.

‘Oh lore,’ she thought, ‘old Ma Fletcher’s finally croaked it. What shall I do?’ She pulled out her mobile, intending to call Ivor, but as her fingers touched the keys she felt herself tap out 999.

‘Can I have an ambulance, to the Post office at Ways Green? Miss Fletcher is lying dead on the floor.’

The police arrived within five minutes and the ambulance pulled up seconds later. Annabelle had wandered into the tearoom and surprised herself by noticing that the ham plate was empty. The short time period seemed an age but she felt proud of herself, that she’d acted in an adult way and called the authorities. Her self assurance was knocked by Inspector Blake’s question as he knelt down and checked for a pulse in Winifred’s neck.

“Have you touched anything Miss?”

“No, I don’t think I have. Well I opened the door. Nothing else. I just wandered around until you got here. The ham’s gone you know. The ham that was in the fridge.”

Inspector Blake raised his eyebrows. “So you didn’t check whether she was alive?”

“No, she looked dead to me. You don’t lie face down the floor for a kip do you? Anyways she’s about a hundred and eighty. It’s not exactly a surprise, is it?”

“She’s running a post office, Miss. I doubt if she’s more than sixty five. What’s your name?”

“Annabelle Fitzhugh. Miss Fletcher limped and everything. She’s got grey hair and couldn’t be bothered to dye it. I bet she’s older than sixty five.”

“Thank you for your help Miss Fitzhugh. Could I ask you to wait outside? My sergeant will come and take your statement.

Annabelle stepped outside the shop and saw the walkers were beginning to arrive back in twos and threes. Ivor was walking at the front with his cousin Charlene. They looked the perfect couple, with their tall lean bodies and matching blond hair. Charlene looked the picture of health and still managed to look good in those dreadful clumpy boots. Annabelle tottered towards them and seemingly burst into tears, although she was careful not to mess up her make-up.

“Old ma Fletcher’s croaked it and I was the one who found the body,” she said. “It was horrible.”

Ivor put his arms round her and she felt the satisfied sensation that she’d taken him away from Charlene.

Inspector Blake chose that moment to come up to them. “Could I ask you all to wait in ‘The Green Man’ opposite? We’ll need to interview everyone. I’m afraid Miss Fletcher was murdered.”

There was a gasp of horror from the walkers and then they made their way over to the pub. Willy Dunt, the village playboy was walking at the back of the group with Alice Roundbottom. Her two children had slowed them down on the walk, but were very excited at going to the pub, where they were never allowed to go.

“I’ll buy you a meal, “Willy said to the children “I haven’t had a proper meal today and we can all sit together.”

Ivor laughed openly, “I see Willy is trying it on with Alice. He’ll be lucky. She’s Miss Ice knickers.”

“And how do you know?” asked Annabelle.

“Believe me, everyone knows,” he said walking into the pub.

Alice, Willy and the children settled into a corner table and were eating plates of food heaped up with chips. Inspector Blake had set up a temporary office in the back of the pub, enabling the SOCO team to get on with their work.

“Excuse me Inspector. I don’t want to push in, but I’d like to get my children out of the pub. Is it possible for someone to interview me first? Not that I’ve got anything of interest to say.”

“This way then,” said Inspector Blake and showed her to a seat in the back room.

“Tell me what you thought of Miss Fletcher,” he said sitting down opposite her.

“Well, she was always very pleasant to your face, but I can’t say that I really liked her. She gossiped dreadfully and sometimes told you things that you just knew should not have been repeated.”

“I see. Could you give me an example?”

“Well she told me that Sidney and Charlene were at it at the Summer Fete. They’re both single but Sidney is engaged to Felicity. She said Sidney was just after Felicity’s money but that he lusted after Charlene. I didn’t believe it at all. Sidney is a dry old stick; local school teacher. I doubt he’s got it in him.”

“I see what you mean. Thank you for being so open. Can you tell me your movements, and those of anyone else’s, on the walk?”

“Well I left with the main party. Keeping an eye on my two keeps me occupied, so I don’t really notice what other people are doing. Only Willy Dunt – he walked with us all the way round.”

“So he started the walk with you.”

Alice paused. “No, he didn’t actually start with us. I think he started at the front, where he usually walks, but he must have joined us within the first ten minutes.”

“So he doesn’t walk with you every time?”

“No. I was a bit surprised that he joined us. I always end up at the back, but he has been perfectly pleasant. To be quite honest he’s a bit of a lothario He was probably going to try it on.”

“And would he have been successful, Mrs Roundbottom?”

“Just because I’m a single mum, doesn’t mean I’m easy. My nickname is Ice Knickers.” She laughed.

Inspector Blake smiled.

“Would you send in Willy Dunt on your way out please?” said Inspector Blake.

And so the interviews continued.

“Miss Fletcher was a charming old lady. She always had time for everyone,” said Willy…Yes I was walking with Alice and the kids.

“Oh Lore. I don’t know what she was like. She was old and always going on about, ‘you young things’ said Annabelle… “I was wearing these heels. I had to give up on the walk. That’s why I was back early.”

“She was a positive old crow,” said Ivor. “Always telling tales about people. Didn’t matter if they were true or not…At the beginning I walked with Annabelle, but not for long. Then I linked up with Charlene. She was wearing proper boots, not like that silly bitch Annabelle.”

“Well darling, actually she was a wicked old witch,” said Charlene. “Very malicious about people, but of course that’s what made her interesting. People do so love a bit of scandal…No she never said anything nasty about me… I started at the front with mother, but she couldn’t keep up. I ended up walking with Ivor, after the ditzy Annabelle had teetered off in her fashion shoes.”

Eventually the interviews were all done. Inspector Blake came out to talk to the walking party.

He rubbed his brow. “I’ve a good idea where you all were on the walk. Now that you’ve all been interviewed I can tell you that Miss Fletcher was struck on the head, probably by a walking pole, so I would like you to hand your poles over to the Sergeant before you leave. We’ll label them and you should have them back in a few days. There was nothing missing from the Post Office, so the crime was not a robbery, gone wrong.”

“Oh it’s all so terrible,” said Annabelle. Ivor smiled at her indulgently and Charlene shot her a look of irritation.

“Strangely the only thing that seems to be missing is some ham. Annabelle Fitzhugh took it out of Miss Fletcher’s fridge before the walk, when she brought in the milk that was still outside the post office. The ham was sitting on the same shelf as an uncooked chicken so she removed it from the fridge and left it on the side and explained to Miss Fletcher that she mustn’t eat it in case it had been contaminated. She left Miss Fletcher having a cup of tea in the tearoom and the plate of ham was on the side. When we looked there was an empty plate but no ham, so it would seem the killer…”

At that moment Willy Dunt grasped his stomach and threw up all over the maroon pattered carpet. His eyes looked huge in his ashen face as everyone turned to look at him.

This writing task was to write a short story that could be adapted for a soap.

Two sentence story challenge

One of the challenges set at the writing group I attend, was to write a story in two sentences. Below are my attempts. Why don’t you have a go?

The summer sun’s light revealed the deathly secret beneath the river’s surface. Upstream, Marcus Dubois hurled the solitaire ring and blood splattered rock as far as he could, into the fast flowing waters.
***
Marcia Edwards smirked as she passed the mill pond. Her brother was on detention for not doing his homework, and only she knew where it lay, in its watery grave.
***
For the seventh time ‘Princess’ Agnes tied the marriage knot.
Like a butterfly she flittered, but divorces she forgot.

What goes around..

Wayne woke up to whiteness. It was so bright that he could hardly see. His head felt as if a sledge hammer had landed right across his temple. Half-heartedly he looked round for his twin.

“Where the smeg is this?” he muttered. Then he closed his eyes again to shut out the piercing light. He tried to sit up, but a wave of nausea swept over him and he sank back to the hard floor. “Bruce, where the frigging hell are you?” He heard a groan to his left. Slowly he lifted his head and reached out his hand. He touched a sticky soft woven material. He moved his hand away quickly.

Wayne peered through the whiteness and saw the shape of Bruce lying on his side, wearing a kind of silver coloured netting. At that moment Bruce started retching and vomited all over the floor. The smell reached Wayne and threatened to overwhelm him, when a white pipe swung out from the wall and sucked the floor clean. A smell of pine slowly permeated the air. His brother groaned.

Time passed and gradually Wayne and Bruce woke up properly; their eyes adjusting to the light. They found they were in a pod. It was not high enough for them to stand up in. They started to search for a doorway but could find none.

“Where’s our smegging clothes gone?” asked Bruce, “and why are we wrapped in this sticky web stuff? It ain’t frigging right.”

“I don’t know bruv. Last I remember we was leaving The George. Who would have taken our clothes and wrapped us up like this?”

There was a high pitched noise and a giant eye appeared on one of the walls. Bruce grabbed hold of Wayne and they both retreated to the back of the pod. Their gaze was fixed upon the eye. As their vision became clearer they could see that the eye was behind the wall, which had become transparent. The large eye was situated in a fury head and eight hairy legs were waving up and down. A deep voice vibrated through the air.

“Welcome, Wayne and Bruce. You are wondering why you are here. Let me explain.”

Wayne felt a rush of warmth against his leg. He realized Bruce had just pissed all over the place. The white pipe swung out from the wall again and cleaned them both up. A fresh smell of pine wafted through the pod.

“As I was saying, normally we don’t interfere with humans, but you two were so terribly poisoned with alcohol you would have died, so we picked you up and brought you to planet Arachnid. Here we have kept you safe from all pollutants and from the atmosphere, which will kill you within seconds. Most of the poison has been emitted from your bodies now and we are working on bringing you some food. The air we have piped in will keep you healthy.”

“What will happen to us? How long will you keep us here?” asked Wayne.

“We will take you back to Earth as soon as you are well. Ah here is your food. Enjoy.”

A little hatch opened. Two plates of salad and two glasses of water were placed on the floor beside them.

“What the…” Bruce said.

“Shut the smeg up. Eat the food. We are prisoners and we don’t need to annoy the hairy eye now do we?”

Both boys looked at each other and then quietly ate their salads. Time passed. Wayne and Bruce didn’t know how much time. There was no night and day, just whiteness. Salad and water was served for every meal. To pass the time they started to pick off the web that encased them. It was strangely satisfying, like bursting bubble wrap. As they picked it off they talked of all the things they hadn’t done in their lives and wanted to do.

“I want to travel to Australia. It’d be great to be able to work my way around the world,” said Bruce.

“I think you’d learn a lot doing that. I’ve always wanted to go to university and study science, but we may be stuck in this pod forever.”

At last they had picked off all the webbing and within seconds the eye appeared. Wayne and Bruce shrank back to the furthest wall.

“Now you are ready to go home. When you were young Wayne, you showed kindness to our kind. You stopped a cruel child, named Gerald, from pulling off our legs. Now we have said thank you. We have made your sick bodies healthy. We have given your pickled brains a chance to recover. All the signs are good but we will not rescue you again. Your clothes will be delivered and then we will take you home.”

Bruce’s face looked pale but Wayne realized that he was feeling well for the first time in years. They had been stupid to follow the self-destructing youth culture.

“Thank you. We will not waste our lives from now on,” said Wayne.

The next thing they knew they woke up and found they were laying on their bedroom floor. They looked at each other but found they could not speak of their ordeal. Later that week Wayne started applying to universities and Bruce began planning his world travel and neither ever felt like drinking alcohol again.

Old Faithful

I entered the car showroom to pick up my boss’s new van. The silence shouted at me. Something made me not call out. I peeped over the high reception counter. Papers were strewn all over the floor.

I found I was holding my breath. Slowly I let it out. Then a telephone rang. The noise shocked me. Surely someone would come and answer it, but no footsteps sounded. Why was the place deserted? I noticed a mug on its side with dark coffee leaking onto the desk. It reminded me of when Mrs Bainbridge had collapsed at work. She’d knocked over her coffee as she fell to the floor, knocking over all the buckets of flowers nearby. Is that what had happened here?

Glancing around I caught an image of myself in a mirrored pillar. My face was white and drawn. It looked ghostly against my blood red blouse. The flared jeans almost hid my comfy shoes, one of which was tied with string instead of shoelace.

I realized I was screwing up the paperwork for the new van. I smoothed it out against the side of my leg. On the floor was a scrap of paper. I bent down to pick it up. It said, ‘Give me the money from the safe and don’t make a sound’. What an earth was going on?

‘Here you! What are you doing here?’ shouted a man from the other end of the corridor, as he ran towards me.

I shoved out my hand with the contract for the van in a defensive action.

‘I’ve come to get Mr Bainbridge’s new van’.

The man reached inside his jacket and fetched out a warrant card. ‘Detective Jones. There’s been a robbery here today miss. What was it you just picked up?’

I handed him the scrap of paper, which he pocketed into a plastic bag.
‘I’m afraid you won’t be taking the van today. The receptionist has been injured by the burglars and we’re in the middle of a serious investigation. Leave me your details and phone up tomorrow’.

I walked down the slope away from garage. Mr Bainbridge would have to wait a while for the new van. It didn’t bother me. I liked the old one. How many bouquets of flowers had I delivered driving ‘old faithful’?

Single

Della gulped down her too hot coffee as she made her way to the front door. Shoving her feet in high heeled shoes, she grabbed her coat and slammed the door. Every morning was the same. There was no-one about as she speeded off towards Bigwood Station. She could hear the train coming as she pulled into the car park.

Diving through the doors she headed for the only empty seat. It was an aisle seat so she knew she needed to get her make-up on quickly as the train would fill up at the next stop. With an expertise, that she didn’t appreciate, she shadowed and lined her eyes and added black mascara. She glossed her lips in a subtle shade of pink and with a few flicks of her comb her hair fell into its neat bob. Other passengers watched fascinated at the transformation.

By the next station Della was sitting with one elegant leg crossed over the other and was calmly reading her book. The doors opened and passengers piled in. One lady leaned over Della’s seat. Della gave her a cool look and then sneezed loudly in her direction. The lady shuffled away. The gentleman sitting opposite noticed a hint of a smile hover on Della’s lips.

***

Alice poured herself another cup of freshly brewed coffee and sat down at the kitchen table with The Times. Absentmindedly she stroked Albert, her Scottish terrier. She waited until the coffee was lukewarm before finishing it and then padded upstairs to the shower.

Although it was a bright day, there was a chill in the air, so Alice slipped on a cashmere jumper over her blouse. She took time and care putting on her make-up in the special magnifying mirror that her daughter had bought her for Christmas. She applied a thin eyeliner to her eyelids and then a layer of mascara to her lashes.

‘Not too bad,’ she thought to herself as she checked the mirror one last time. Pulling on sensible flat boots she slipped a lead on Albert and left the house.

Arriving at the club, she settled Albert in the corner of the room and went to join her friends at the bar. Mary Entwhistle carried Alice’s drink back to the table for her and made a fuss of Albert. Soon a number of other women joined them. Alice knew she was lucky to be part of the Bigwood Ladies group and she settled back to hear all their latest news. Nobody mentioned the lipstick that was too wide for her mouth, the eyes with thick smudged liner or that she was wearing one brown and one blue boot.

***

Della arrived at the office calm and relaxed having finished another chapter of the novel she was reading. Before she hung up her coat Mr Arnold said he wanted to see her. She raised an eyebrow, but followed him out of the room.

Without preamble he said, “We want to offer you the position of junior partner, here at Arnold and Griffith. Initially you will take over two of my high profile cases, but in the longer term, you will become a senior partner and I’ll retire. What d’you say Della?”

She took a deep breath and held out her hand. “I’m delighted to accept,” she said. Inside she wanted to jump up and down and scream. This was what she’d been working towards for five years. It had all paid off. Now her mum would be proud of her. In fact she’d pop in on the way home tonight.

***

Alice walked back from the club with Albert, stopping to chat with people along the way. The sun warmed her face. Still there was the rest of the afternoon and evening to get through on her own, so she decided to buy herself a little treat. Popping into the corner shop she picked up a bottle of sherry and three packets of jammy dodgers. She liked these biscuits and so did Albert.

When she got home she couldn’t be bothered to cook. She’d had a proper meal at lunch time so she opened the sherry and the biscuits and settled down to watch Floggit. That Paul Martin was such a nice man. As the sun went down so did the biscuits.

Then she heard a key in the lock. It could only be one person.

“Hello mum,” said Della. “Oh my goodness, what are you doing? Drinking in the afternoon and there’s crumbs everywhere.”

“Hello Della dear, it’s good to see you,” Alice smiled.

“Have you had your evening meal yet? Don’t tell me you’re not eating properly and living on biscuits. You’ll have to go in a home if you can’t look after yourself.”

“Sit down Della. I’ve been out with my club today and had a proper meal and I’ll go into a home if and when I want to.”

“Sorry mum. I worry about you.”

“When it suits you, but in the weeks in between I get on with my life. Now can I get you something?”

Della sat down and brushed some crumbs from the chair. “I wish you wouldn’t let that dog sit on the chairs and if you stopped feeding him biscuits there wouldn’t be crumbs everywhere.”

“That’s true, but I don’t mind if Albert makes a few crumbs. Now have you just come round to nag me?”
Della paused and then smiled. “I’ve been made a junior partner mum. Isn’t that fantastic? Not many women my age are made partners.”

“That’s very nice dear. I’m glad you’re pleased.” Alice stroked Albert’s ears. ‘Poor girl,’ she thought, ‘on her own at thirty-five. There’s enough time to be on your own at seventy two.’ She poured herself another sherry and caught a look of disappointment on Della’s face.

Raising her glass she said, “Well done Della. I’m very proud of you.”

“Are you mum? You didn’t look it.”

“Of course I am, it’s just that I worry about you too.”

“Me? Why on earth would you worry about me? I’m young, fit and healthy and have a well-paid job.”

“You never seem to have time to savour the good things in life. When did you last have a day off?”

“Mum, you don’t understand. I’m in a very competitive business. I have to be sharp and keep working to stay ahead. I’m achieving more than most. Can’t you be proud?”

“I am proud, but just remember you’re not that young and time’s marching if you’re planning to do the married and baby thing.”

“Oh mother! I’m off home. Early start tomorrow.” She paused by the door and looked back. Her mother was ferreting in a drawer.

“Here, Della. Take this. It’s your father’s ring. He would have been so proud of you becoming a partner.”

Della smiled and hugged her mother.

A Hard Day’s Night

Hilary stood outside the Odeon, wearing her Mary Quant style dress. It was a very short tent dress, black and gold check and made of light corduroy material. She shivered. There was no point in having a fashionable dress and covering it with a thick coat. Her stomach was churning over. Nick was due any minute. He was older than her by two years and if her dad had known she was meeting him, she would have been grounded for ten years. Nick was very tall, over six foot and he had the bluest eyes she had ever seen.

Her dad thought she was going to see ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ for the third time. He was happy to accept her obsession with the Beatles, but couldn’t cope with the idea that his little girl might be interested in boys of the real variety. If he’d known that she was not with her friend, Christine, tonight, he’d have forbidden her leaving the house. As it was he’d not been happy with the length of her skirt and she’d had to put her make-up on after he’d dropped her off.

Then she saw Nick as he turned the corner into the main high street. He waved at her but she noticed he didn’t speed up. He was smart in a leather jacket and tight jeans that had been specially faded to give a casual look. He greeted her with a kiss on the cheek and suggested that they go to this party he knew about in a nearby hall. She felt the warmth of her hand in his and forgot how cold she’d been feeling. It was amazing how being in love changed physical feelings.

The hall looked beautiful to Hilary; it was bright and decorated. Music was blaring out and people were dancing the twist. She felt very awkward and gauche. She had thought she looked fashionable but this crowd were sophisticated, older and she knew nobody but Nick.

“I’ll get you a drink,” Nick said.
“Just an orange juice,”
“Yeah right,” he said, leaving her on her own.

She felt panic rising. She shouldn’t have come. There were none of her friends here and her dress, which she’d spent all her Saturday job money on, was decidedly frumpy.

“Fancy coming out the back, love,” a boy leaned over her.
“No thanks. I’m with Nick.”
The boy, Gary, laughed, “Oh well you’ll be out the back soon enough then.”
“What d’you mean?”
“Oh c’mon love, you must know his reputation.”
“No, I don’t. Anyway we’ve only just met.”
The boy laughed again. “Huh, that won’t make any difference.” He wandered off as Nick returned with the drinks.
“Who were you talking to? Nick asked, handing her a drink.
“Don’t know. He er wanted to dance, but I said I was with you.”
She took a sip. “What’s this? It’s not orange juice.”
“They didn’t have any, so I got you an orange drink instead. If you don’t like it leave it.”
Now she’d annoyed him. “No, I’m sure it’ll be fine,” she said taking a sip.”
“Wanna dance?” Nick said, leading her on to the floor. They did the twist and then a smooch dance.
“You read Lady Chatterley?” Nick asked.
“Not exactly. It’s been round school and I’ve read excerpts, but I couldn’t take it home. My dad would kill me if he found it. ”
“You frightened of him then?”
“Well, I don’t deliberately annoy him. He’s quite strict and my mother’s even more so.”
“I’m surprised they let you come out without meeting me then.”
“They don’t actually know. I’m not allowed boyfriends.” said Hilary.

She finished her drink and Nick went off to get her another one. This time she felt fine about being on her own and was swaying to the music when he came back. He smiled at her and she took a big thirsty swig. They danced some more. The lights dimmed and she was aware that Nick was very close and his hands were all over her. She tried to keep standing, but felt unsteady on her feet and then without warning she had to push him away. With her hand over her mouth she ran to the ladies and threw up. There was no-one about to help her and then the door opened. She turned round and saw Nick was there.

“Yuck, now that’s not very enticing. I don’t fancy you in that state. You’d best get yourself home to daddy, love.”

Hilary couldn’t reply as another wave of nausea hit her. She heard the door slam. Tears ran down her cheek and as she finally looked up the sight in the mirror was horrendous. Nick didn’t want to be with her. She had to get back to the Odeon before her dad picked her up and she looked a total mess.

Quietly the door opened again and Gary stood there with a pint glass of water. “I thought you might be needing this, as I saw Nick dancing with Pam and I can guess how much Vodka he put in your drink.”
“Vodka? No wonder I was so ill.”
“Look I know I tried it on earlier, but I don’t get girls smashed and then take advantage. Just drink the water slowly. The best thing you can do now is wash your face, clean yourself up, put some make-up back on and then walk out of this party with your head held high.”

Hilary looked at him carefully and then back at her image in the mirror. He made sense. She washed her face and reapplied her make -up, in between sipping the water. Once she’d brushed her hair and backcombed it again she looked much better.

“My stomach feels rough,” she said.
“Have some toast when you get in,” Gary said. “It’s probably a good job you threw up. At least you won’t be so drunk.”
Hilary glanced at her watch. “I must hurry. My dad’s picking me up from the Odeon in twenty minutes.”
“C’mon then. Head high and smile as if you’re happy. Hold onto my arm,” said Gary
Hilary walked back out into the main hall. The music was too loud and as she looked closely she saw what a tatty place it was.
“Night Nick,” she called as she sauntered out of the door. She turned to Gary when they were outside. “I’m going to run as I daren’t be late.”
“OK, I’ll run with you,” said Gerald.

It was cold, but the fresh air made her feel better. They arrived before her dad. “I’ll stand over there until you get into your dad’s car, just to make sure you’re safe. By the way Psycho is coming back to this cinema next Saturday. D’you fancy going? ”
“If I can bring my friend Christine,” Hilary said.
Gary smiled and started to walk away. “It’s a date” he called.
“Thank you for helping me tonight,” she shouted back as her dad’s car drew up at the curb.

This story is written to support a group of people with Alzheimer’s and was a task set at the writing class I attend. It is based on the sixties.

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